Disney Springs Heritage: Part I–Marketplace
We welcome you to what we believe to be a seven part series on Disney Springs. We bring to you the first in the series, a focus on The Marketplace. Here we look at its history since opening in 1975 as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. We compare the Walt Disney World Village of the 1980’s with the Marketplace of today. And we share historic insights going back to California harbor shopping all the way to the present, and we bring you memories of the Marketplace over the decades.
Disney Springs Heritage Overview
Our seven part series will look at how Disney Springs has evolved into what it is today, and breaks down the details, the backstory and themes of its present look.
- Part I: Downtown Disney Marketplace
- Part II: Pleasure Island
- Part III: Disney’s West End
- Disney Springs
- Part IV: Marketplace
- Part V: Town Center
- Part VI: The Landing
- Part VII West Side
History of Marketplace
- Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village: March 22, 1975
- Empress Lilly: May 1, 1977
- Walt Disney World Village: 1977
- Lake Buena Vista Office Plaza (Sun Bank Building), July 18, 1978
- Walt Disney World Conference Center, August 1980
- Disney Village Marketplace: 1989
- Disney Institute, February 9th, 1996
- World of Disney opens October 3rd, 1996
- Downtown Disney Marketplace at Downtown Disney: 1997
- Once Upon a Toy opens August 2002
- Renovation into Disney Springs Around 2018
Layout Yesterday & Today
The following is a brochure map dating back to 1987, before there was Pleasure Island, AMC and the rest of what would become Downtown Disney. You can see the numbers of previous shops identified along with current shops today.
- Empress Lilly Riverboat/Baton Rouge Lounge/Empress Room Lounge
- 1 D E:
- Artespana/ Village Ice Cream Parlor/Minnie Mia’s Pizzeria
- Now LEGO Store
- 2 3
- Christmas Chalet/Pottery Chalet
- Now World of Disney
- 2R’s Read’n & Rite’n
- Now Basin
- Arriabas Brothers
- Still Arribas Brothers
- 6 7 8
- Great Southern Craft Co./Mickey’s Character Shop/Mickey & Co.–
- Now Guest Services/Photo Pass/Market Co-Op/Tren-D
- Now Ghirardelli
- Sir Edward’s Haberdasher
- Now Once Upon a Toy
- Gourmet Pantry
- Now Spice & Tea Exchange & Earl of Sandwich
- 11 12 13
- Toys Fantastique/It’s a Small World After All/Resortwear Unlimited
- Stars Wars Trading Post & Goofy’s Candy Co.
- 14 G
- Windjammer Dock Shop/Cap’n Jack’s Oyster Bar
- 15 16 17
- 24KT Precious Adornments/Country Address/Village Spirits
- The Art of Disney, Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories
- 18 19
- Team Mickey’s Athletic Club/Sassy’s/All American Express
- Disney’s Days of Christmas, Wolfgang Puck Express
- H I
- Village Restaurant and Lounge
- Rainforest Cafe
- Captain’s Tower
- Disney Pin Traders
You can see below how the Captain’s Tower was once the focal point for selling Florida citrus. A statue of Orange Bird is included.
The design sensibility of The Marketplace comes from California Seaside Shopping Villages: From San Diego Old Quarter to Fisherman’s Wharf, California has a long history of water-front locations filled with an eclectic variety of shopping & dining experiences. Perhaps some of the most influential of these was Balboa Island in Newport Beach and Ports O’ Call Village in San Pedro. Not only did many of these influence the clapboard design of the village, but they also were the influencers of bringing in craft-like vendors selling pottery, macrame, rattan, embroidery & plants, and so forth.
There is also a nod to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, where you see John Ringling’s collection of Mediterranean Statues. That circle houses boutique shops that were the center of the island. Remember that Disney was very focused on competing with the beach.
Another memory is of the Reuben E. Lee, restaurants that were in the form of a steamboat ship. One was in Newport Beach and another in San Diego. They were the predecessor of the Empress Lilly, although the real predecessor of the Reuben E. Lee was the Mark Twain steamboat in Disneyland.
Mickey’s Character Shop
The centerpiece of this store was a large plush collection where children could practically nose dive into a sea of plush. Above it was a 20-foot tall hot air balloon with Mickey, Donald and Minnie onboard. This would be the precedent for the flying machines that would ultimately grace World of Disney.
This was Disney’s answer to FAO Schwartz. Most of the toys were not Disney-related. Those pieces of merchandise were largely relegated to Mickey’s Character Shop. What you could find here were lots of hands-on opportunities to try toys out.
Original Chef Mickey’s
Chef Mickey’s Restaurant was originally at the Disney Village Marketplace at Walt Disney World where it opened in July 1990. Prior to that it was known as The Village Restaurant. That location closed on September 30, 1995, and after extensive remodeling, reopened in 1996 as the Rainforest Cafe.
Below is an image of what the Village originally looked like.
A few months later after it closed at Disney Village Marketplace the restaurant re-opened in the Contemporary Resort on December 22, 1995, taking the place of the Contemporary Café.
And by the way, Chef Mickey, also opened September 12, 2005, in Disney’s Hollywood Hotel at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
The huge tree, the smells and the reginaphone playing holiday music made Christmas come alive all year long.
The Glory & Pageantry of Christmas
For our family, we have decades of starting the holidays at the Disney Village Marketplace. Check out show 56 for Three Family Christmas Disney Stories. That tradition of spending time at the Marketplace during the holidays continues today with events like the Christmas Tree Trail.
Be sure to check out our previous post & podcast where we talk about all the latest happenings at Disney Springs. Lots going on at Disney Springs as it completely reopens.